The sun-baked pillars rise from the ground, silhouetted against the bluest of skies, as the morning heat starts to rise in intensity.
I feel alone in this most ancient of landscapes.
Here, in the ruins of the city of Perge, around nine miles from the Turkish city of Antalya, you can be immersed into history.
You can reach out, touch and walk down the streets of the ancestors with rare freedom in a sprawling ruined cityscape, which includes winding networks of unearthed Roman baths and an acropolis dating back to the bronze age.
Then you can travel back to your luxury, yet affordable, resort hotel with all the bells and whistles of modernity and probably a game of golf or a massage, with G&T on the side.
It is quite the contrast. But this is Turkey.
A country with everything to offer for the holiday-maker, for the sun-lover, the experience seeker and the bargain-hunting health tourist, yet a greater battle to market itself against the predictable holiday favourites of the Brit abroad.
Following a flight direct from Manchester to Antalya airport characterised by a reassuring level of security, I stayed at the Xanadu Resort Hotel in the resort of Belek on the south-western
Mediterranean coast, a luxurious save-haven for tourists who can closet themselves in an all-inclusive world with everything they can possibly desire.
Azure palm-fringed pools, sandy beaches, blue seas, food and drinks at any time of night, this is a paradise escape for those needing to refresh, unwind, spend time and be pampered with plenty to keep the kids happy.
The hotel has everything you could possibly need and more. The province of Antalya is paradise at a considerably more competitive edge than its rivals.
This is in part due to the perception of Turkey as a risky travel destination following the attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport and political instability which saw tourism levels drop last year.
But all travel carries risks and terror is not exclusive of any country, as we all sadly know, and Turkey is keen to re-establish itself as a family-friendly destination for all.
And this is a friendly country, a cultural melting pot of people who can’t wait to show the wonders of their sun-soaked homeland to the uninitiated, particularly those who step outside the air conditioned world of the resorts.
Those who do will be rewarded by the colourful, ripe-smelling chaos of the market, the wonder of the gravity-defying sandcastles at Sandland or, away from the epic and delicious international hotel buffet-style food, a real Turkish meal.
In Antalya itself, I enjoyed my first ever ‘proper’ chilli-pepper laced Doner Kebab, balances with a traditional salty Ayran yoghurt drink, which I suspect was a world away from the British Friday night experience.
The remarkable Roman theatre (not an ampitheatre as it’s a full circle – you’ll get told off if you say it) of Aspendos is about as historically romantic as it gets, the bleached stone steps reaching into the sky. Despite the heat, you have to climb, have to know how it felt for those sweating, over-excited, audiences from times gone by.
And I enjoyed a brief sojourn into the old city – Kaleici – the beautiful winding centre which boast views across the sea and restaurant’s cafes and shops amid the historic, sun-baked, buildings of the settlement.
If the heat proves too much, head toward the beautiful, misty, gloriously-green oasis that is the Kursunlu Waterfall Park 11 miles outside the city, or inside to the Antalya Archaeological Museum where an astonishing wealth of remains and reconstruction tells the story of this ancient landscape.
And if, like the millions of tourists who head to Turkey every year, golf is your thing you will struggle to compete with Antalya’s offering, including the Cornelia Diamond Gold Resort and Spa with course designed by Nick Faldo – here all the resorts compete with each other on luxury and Cornelia up there with the best.
Antalya is an experience and you can choose your own Turkish delight.
- Nicola stayed at Xanadu Resort Hotel in Belek, Antalya https://www.xanaduhotels.com